Queensland and Brisbane forward Corey Parker says it is up to the side’s representative stars to salvage their season as the Broncos attempt to make a late run for the finals.
Brisbane head to Townsville on Friday to take on a North Queensland side in a similarly desperate position, with both teams sitting six competition points outside the top eight and the loser almost certainly out of the finals race in 2013.
The form book makes ugly reading for the Broncos who have lost their past three games and six of their past seven, but Parker said that with the representative season over it was up the club’s State of Origin quartet – he, Sam Thaiday, Matt Gillett and Justin Hodges – to brush aside their fatigue and guide the side home.
Ben Hannant’s unavailability through injury only adds to their desperation.
“It’s important that we do our job,” Parker said of Brisbane’s big four. “At the end of the day, that’s what it is for us – our job – so regardless of how you’re feeling you just need to get out there and execute and get the job done.
“It’s not an easy thing with Origin. It’s such a massive occasion these days and it’s such a big build-up so it does take its toll but the club understands that as well.
“They gave us four or five days to get away with the family, clear the head and recover. But this is obviously a very important time for the club and the current team trying to salvage our year so as I said, we’ve got a job to do.”
Brisbane’s task against a North Queensland side that also welcomes back its Origin quartet of Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott, Brent Tate and James Tamou seems daunting enough in itself, let alone the prospect of having to win at least six of their remaining seven games to reach the finals.
But Parker said the Broncos wouldn’t go quietly.
“As long as we’re alive in this competition we’re a chance,” he said. “That’s the way you’ve got to look at it. More to the point, you’ve got to look at the jersey you’ve got on and the logo on your chest to see what you’re playing for.
“It’s a club built on a proud history and pride and success and that’s why you want to play for the club. You want to do the club proud and the playing group we’ve got at the moment, we’ve still got an opportunity to do that.
“We understand the reality of where we’re at. I don’t know the exact figures – I think I read we need six out of seven [wins] in the run home – but that provides a great challenge as well. It’s a big test of character for everyone involved and something that personally I’m looking forward to.”
Brisbane and North Queensland have built one of the great rivalries in the NRL since the Cowboys came into the competition in 1995. And while the Townsville-based unit boast the edge in recent times with four wins from their past six meetings, Brisbane enjoy a 78 per cent winning record in Townsville – more than at any other venue.
The Broncos edged a thriller 12-10 at Suncorp earlier this year and Parker said he expected a similarly tight result this time around.
“It comes with the territory of being a Queenslander and two Queensland teams coming together,” he said. "Certainly over the years there have been some really memorable games between the two.
“We had a bit of a tongue in cheek in Origin camp with the Cowboys guys about this game actually because they’re in the exact same situation as us it should be a good game up there.
“Now that Origin is done and dusted it’s important that we get back on board at club level and I’m sure ‘Thursto’ is in the same boat.”
Parker said the Broncos hadn’t been too far from playing their best football in recent weeks and was confident they could get on the roll they need with a win against the Cowboys on Friday night.
“Our ability to work for one another has always been there but collectively we’ve fallen short as a group on last passes,” he said.
“We’re aware of that and it’s something we’re working on constantly. Sometimes in footy you can do all the right things and still come away with a loss. We’re aware of that also. But this is about us. We can’t focus too much on the Cowboys or what they’ve got to offer.”